Parents of Huntsville, Arkansas, middle and high school students are still desperate for answers months after younger members of a boys’ basketball team alleged last winter that older boys sexually assaulted them in the locker room.
“I know these boys,” the mother of one victim told Fox News Digital on the condition of anonymity to protect her son from further harassment. “They’re having nightmares.”
The mother described horrific abuse allegations, which first surfaced last winter, but began to receive significant media attention in June, saying the abuse caused some boys to “throw up” after it occurred.
Rebecca Nelle, a mother of another minor who experienced the abuse, sued the school district in September for allegedly forcing her son, identified as B.N. in the complaint, and “at least” 16 other children who were sexually harassed or assaulted to continue attending class “without any punishment on their abusers causing those that were sexually assaulted to be fearful of retaliation and retribution,” the complaint states.
B.N., after joining the team, “learned that ninth grade members of the boys’ basketball team would engage in forcible sexual assault against multiple boys’ Middle School players by having one or more students holding an eighth-grade member down while one or more Middle School basketball players would engage in what is called ‘baptism’ and ‘bean dipping…”
“‘Baptism’…refers to placing one’s genitals on the face or in the mouth of another student. ‘Bean dipping’…refers to placing a student’s rectum and anus on the face and particularly the nose of another student,” the lawsuit states.
The mother who spoke on the condition of anonymity believes Huntsville School Board members are trying to silence parents and attorneys by declining certain Freedom of Information Act requests.
“My main thing is that I don’t want it to happen to someone else,” she said. “And if they get their way, it will never be known and will just keep going on. … It needs to be stopped.”
The school interviewed 53 boys in total about the assaults between February and March, and seven said they had experienced “baptizing,” according to school documents obtained by Fox News, and as local newspaper The Madison County Record first reported. But parents believe the numbers of victims and perpetrators may be much higher.
Two members of the team admitted to assaulting their teammates, and the school board reduced their initial one-year expulsion sentences to one semester following a May 3 hearing that was “riddled with irregularities,” according to The Record, because Superintendent Aundra Kimball failed to notify press about the hearing and did not record it.
In messages obtained by The Record, Kimball sent a May 3 text to school board President Danny Thomas suggesting the issue would “pass.”
“This will pass, like a kidney stone, but it will pass,” she wrote.
Huntsville is a relatively small town, with a total population of about 2,500 people, where most families know others by name. It has created some tension surrounding the case and those students involved, the anonymous mother said.
Joey McCutchen, the attorney representing Nelle and other parents, is now alleging that the district violated both Title IX and FOIA laws after the defendant filed a motion to “leave certain documents under seal” because they contain the names of minors who are both alleged survivors and perpetrators of assault.
The district’s motion to leave documents sealed states that “the unfortunate reality is that the only way to protect all of these children from the consequences of decisions adults make is to seal these proceedings in their entirety.”
“No live testimony and no record of this case — be it a pleading, motion, brief, court order or otherwise, should be open to the public without a prior order of this Court,” the district’s motion continues.
Kimball referred Fox News to the district’s attorney, who did not immediately respond to an inquiry. Thomas, the school board president, also did not immediately respond to an inquiry.
The Record owner and publisher Ellen Kreth, who has been following the allegations since they became public, recently filed a motion to intervene so that the newspaper “can participate in these proceedings and respond to the Huntsville School District’s motion to limit pretrial publicity.”
Kreth said in an affidavit filed on Oct. 27 that the school district’s Title IX coordinator gave her the names of three students involved in the investigations. Kreth made an editorial decision not to release any names publicly. Kreth also obtained texts sent between school administrators and board members through FOIA requests, though parents allege they were denied the same requests, according to complaints.
Huntsville Junior High School boys basketball coach Kaleb Houston resigned in August, according to the September complaint. Nelle’s lawsuit alleges Houston failed to report incidents of sexual assault to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline and that the school district was “deliberately indifferent to the sexual assault that was occurring.” Houston has denied knowing about the allegations, according to The Record.
Some parents have alleged that the sexual assault went on for several years. The Huntsville School Board previously told Fox News Digital in June that a Title IX investigation into the issue was ongoing, but “the district is not able to comment on student discipline.”
Devastated Arkansas parents still looking for answers after basketball team sexual assault incident